Help songbirds, butterflies and bees! Celebrate Native Plant Month by Participating in Free Programs

To survive, black-capped chickadees must have 70% native plants like this staghorn sumac in their nesting area.

April 1, 2024 By Lisey Good

Did you know that our state bird species, the black-capped chickadee, must have 70% native plants in its nesting area to survive? Or that native plants are a healthier option for feeding hummingbirds than nectar feeders?

Native plants are defined as plants that were present prior to the arrival of European settlers in North America. They are crucial to healthy biodiversity because they evolved side by side with the insects, birds and other wildlife of a given region, and thus have a reciprocal beneficial relationship with them.

Governor Maura Healey has officially proclaimed April as Native Plant Month. The Garden Club of America (GCA) inspired this initiative designed “to increase awareness of the critical role native plants play in supporting a healthy environment, thriving wildlife and pollinator populations, reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers, cleaning air and water, and so much more.” See the proclamation here:

All plants protect our planet’s natural resources, including air, water, and soil. Native plants do all this and more because they have evolved alongside native bees, birds, and wildlife. Their complex relationship with fauna is extremely specialized and it cannot be substituted with exotic, non-native plants. A significant number of North American species, including birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other animals, are at risk of extinction because they cannot eat non-native plants. In addition, habitat loss, the use of invasive species, climate change, and pesticide use are contributing to their steep decline.

Hummingbirds need native plants like Jewelweed. These plants better prepare them for their arduous migrations to Central America than nectar feeders.

GCA clubs across Massachusetts have partnered with over a dozen other organizations to support this initiative, including Grow Native Massachusetts, the Native Plant Trust, Mass Audubon, Wild Cohasset, and the Mass. Nursery & Landscape Association. Many free programs organized statewide are or will soon be listed here.

South Shore-based environmental group Wild Cohasset is a non-profit run by members of the Cohasset Garden Club that’s dedicated to the preservation of native plants. With the help of volunteers (including teens who can receive community service credits) the group installs native plant meadows and gardens and removes invasive plants that harm at-risk natives. Its annual WeedFest takes place on May 5th , 2024 at locations in Hingham, Cohasset, Scituate and Norwell. More information here.

For further information about how to design a native plant garden, re-wild your lawn, and information about where to purchase native plants, go see Wild Cohasset’s website. Additionally, The Native Plant Trust’s native plant garden, “Garden in the Woods” in Framingham, reopens for 2024 on Sunday, April 14 and features a nursery selling native plants suited for our region.

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